Plant-Based Nutrition: Rethinking Meat, Dairy and Processed Foods

My childhood years in Taiwan was short and sweet. I remember drinking fresh soy milk, eating lots of fruits and veggies, a little bit of meat and all meals were cooked by my aunt. After moving back to New York, everything changed. My parents worked long hours so I was given $10 for lunch and dinner. McDonalds was down the street from me and other fast food chains were conveniently located around my neighborhood. I learned early on that the less money I spend on my meals, the more I can spend on what I really wanted, which was candy, chips and sodas. Some days, I would eat ramen for lunch and dinner. Since ramen cost only 30 cents a pack, I was raking in the dough. More money to spend on the latest snack advertised to me on TV (i.e. Gushers, Fruit by the Foot, Oreos and Poptarts come to mind) .

0710-junk-food-hotdog

My breakfast looked something like this: Mini Donuts and a grenade drink. Ding Dongs and a bottle of mystic. I wasn’t the only one doing this either because the candy store right by my junior high school was always packed and the snack line at school was always long.

Fast forward 20 years, I’m a Registered Dietitian with more than ten cavities, a root canal and a story to tell. What happened to the days where animals roamed free, fruits and veggies were staples, water quenched our thirst, and food would eventually rot. I look at the ingredients for a box of cookies and cannot believe my eyes. How can this be food?  The first ingredient of Ritz crackers is wheat flour (white flour or refined flour)-which is whole wheat flour striped of its nutrients. Micronutrients are then added back in the process of food fortification or enrichment. They’re basically food-like substances with lots of sugar, salt and fat. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good chocolate cupcake too, but definitely on occasion.

A western diet consisting of high intakes of processed meat, red meat, poultry, contaminated seafood, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, high sodium foods, refined grains, dairy products and sugary drinks is making people sick. Pills aren’t helping either. Many government officials, the very people who are suppose to make sure our food is safe (FDA, USDA, EPA) have ties with the food industry. Even the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, my professional group are sponsored by companies like McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Hersey’s, Monsanto, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Dairy Council, General Mill’s, Kellogg’s and Pepsico. You may have seen the explosive report by Michele Simon, disclosing this information in more detail. Luckily, the facebook page, Dietitians for Professional Integrity was created. A place where dietitians can speak out and fight for what’s right.

The one diet or should I say dietary pattern that stand the test of time is one consisting of whole foods – mostly plants, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and sea vegetables. The healthiest and longest living groups of people in the world (Okinawins, Adventists, and Sardinians) eat a plant-based diet, don’t smoke, stay physically active, keep socially engaged and cherish family.

Watch the following talks for inspiration and to find out about how a plant-based diet can fight against chronic diseases and certain cancers. Even acne.

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5 thoughts on “Plant-Based Nutrition: Rethinking Meat, Dairy and Processed Foods

  1. Hey HD. Just wanted to say that I really appreciate your blog – it’s definitely educating in this overwhelming “food” world. Every blog post is more educational than a dry textbook page, it’s really been helping me rethink my eating habits, which leads me to ask: could you perhaps write a “Revamp Your Diet 101” post? Something directed to college students who like me who often sustain ourselves on pizza and ramen, only to be left wondering why we feel so sluggish and let’s face it, breaking out all over the place, all the time. Something simple and direct (that is not the food pyramid mumbo jumbo) for those of us who’ve finally realized that no, a croissant does not constitute as a meal…I imagine it as “The College Kid’s Ramen Detox Guide.” Thanks in advance 😉

    1. Hi there! Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll work on it. Funny thing. I will be teaching a summer course at a local college so I will take the opportunity to watch student eating habits and write about my observations. I like the title you’ve imagined-might steal it from you. =)

  2. Hi HD,
    Thanks for writing this article, recently, for the past month, I have started adopting a vegetarian diet and noticed a surge in energy and I absolutely enjoy making and drinking almond nut milks, smoothies etc to add more variety to soy milk. In any case, i was always more inclined towards a plant based diet. However, I learnt some interesting facts from my friends in the vegetarian society- that is we need to supplement B12 in a vegan diet, though perhaps not entirely required if you still eat eggs.just wondering if the same applies for omega DHAs?

    Mich

  3. Hi HD!

    This is a wonderful post. I definitely have walked in your shoes before. I’ve tried earnestly to eliminate all processed/packaged food and rely on clean eating. The thing is, I realized that healthy/clean eating is more than weight loss but a huge contributor to your “natural” health. Our bodies aren’t normally used to all these foreign packaged food, yet we’ve eaten so many of these that our bodies have adapted.

    I remember I ate a Clif bar a few weeks ago knowing that it had ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. I was desperate because I had a training session to go to. However, a few hours later, I found myself having a severe stomach ache and going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. This incident taught me that processed food is seriously not good for our bodies at all.

    Can’t wait to see more awesome posts like this!

    xoxo,
    Stephanie

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